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Gardai realise major reform is now the only way forward

A Garda Inspectorate report published yesterday has recommended what would be the biggest ever reform of An Garda Síochána.

The report is ground-breaking and has far reaching implications for the function and role of the force well into the 21st century.

If most of the recommendations are implemented, the force - currently led by Acting Commission Noirin O'Sullivan (right) - would undergo huge change.

As a former detective I'd argue that the most radical proposals are those recommending a shift away from centralised control in Garda headquarters to an emphasis on regionalisation, where officers will be appointed to control specific areas of crime and policing in specific regions.


By far the most controversial recommendation in this regard, to my mind, is the proposed decentralisation of the investigations of serious crimes, such as murder, manslaughter and rape, and the establishment of regional serious crime units around the country.

This would effectively see an end to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, as we know it.

When the dust settles, I believe the two matters above will be the most significant proposals.

That said, other elements of the report certainly make for uncomfortable reading.

The Inspectorate has serious criticisms to make of the recording and classification of certain crimes and lack of governance of supervision by some senior officers throughout the country.

It also criticised the lack of communication by investigating officers with victims of some serious crimes.

An Garda Síochána has been embroiled in some recent controversies, including the penalty points debacle and the handling of whistleblower complaints.


There is no doubt that these scandals rocked the force to its foundation and seriously weakened the trust and confidence of the public in it.

On the face of it, this report won't help to quickly restore this trust.

But I believe that, in time, the Garda Inspectorate report, with its many recommendations and honest criticisms, will go a long way in restoring the reputation of this proud institution.

Most gardaí fully accept that An Garda Síochana, like any other public organisation, must be fully accountable and transparent.

Much needed and long overdue reform will ensure this is the case.